By Jian Ping
I met Hank seven years ago at the Graham School, University of Chicago. We were attending the Basic Program—great books of the West. We moved on to take the Asian Classics when the four-year program was finished, and Hank’s wife Joyce joined us in this new program. They have been very supportive to my book since the beginning—coming to my first talk at the Printers Row Book Fair and invited me to talk to their respective “men’s” and “women’s” book groups. Recently, they also introduced me to talk at the “Kitchen Cabinet,” a social club in Barrington.
It was through them I met Sharon, Joyce’s cousin. Sharon attended one of my talks in the Chicago area. Afterward, she invited me to meet with her book group in Kalamazoo, MI and be her house guest. I readily agreed. That Thursday, Hank raced on the highway to “Kazoo” and we arrived at Sharon’s home shortly before 5:30 P.M., the start of the event. We rushed into Sharon’s car and headed toward the Kazoo Books, a local bookstore. Most of the women in the book group were already there when we walked in. We shook hands and sat around a table that was covered with food they had brought—salad, cheese, bread, fruit, pasta, cookies, cakes and various types of drinks. I was impressed that Gloria, owner of the bookstore, designated a room for such events and allowed people to bring in food and drinks.
I chatted with the group, addressed their questions and listened to their comments. At 6:30, the event was open to public and more people joined us. We changed the setting and I stood in the front and gave a talk about my book and China’s Cultural Revolution, with visuals to help the audience have a better understanding. Many in the audience raised questions, and we had a very lively discussion—this was one of those events that I knew I connected with the audience.
Gloria invited everyone to have a piece of carrot cake at the end of my talk, and I joined her by passing a bag of crispy peanut candies from China. After book signing, a few women lingered to continue our conversation. It was well after 8 P.M. when we returned to Sharon’s house.
I felt most fortunate to have the generous support of friends and the genuine interest from many readers.